80 die in Ramadan crush at a school in Yemen

80 die in Ramadan crush at a school in Yemen

WN/R: Disheartening as Pupils sit on ‘BLOCKS’ during class hour to learn | PHOTOS

Eighty people have been killed in a crush at a school in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, during a charity event for Ramadan, offi­cials say.

The incident began after hundreds crowded into a narrow street in the Bab al-Yemen area late on Wednesday to get hand­outs of $9 (£7) from a merchant.

Video showed people screaming for help and others trying to pull them free. Later footage appeared to show dozens of bodies on the ground, as well as shoes and clothing strewn over steps.

Officials from the rebel Houthi movement accused organisers of failing to co-ordinate with local authorities and said they had been detained.

Yemen has been devastated by a civil war that escalated in 2015, when the Iran-aligned Houthis seized control of large parts of the west of the country from the internationally-recognised gov­ernment and a Saudi-led coalition intervened in an effort to restore its rule.

Steps draped at the scene of the crush

The fighting has reportedly left more than 150,000 people dead and triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with two thirds of the population – 21.7 million people – in need of some form of aid.

Poor people made their way to the Maeen School in central Sanaa on Wednesday night after being told that a local merchant would be handing out zakat (alms) to mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Council, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, posted a photo on Twitter apparently showing hundreds of people queuing outside the school before the crush.

Mr Houthi said the merchant received people via a back gate that was reached by a narrow street and steps. This resulted in overcrowding and a crush when the gate was opened, he added.

He also blamed the Saudi-led coalition for causing an “econom­ic catastrophe” with its military campaign against the rebels and blockade of the country.

The Associated Press quoted two witnesses who said Houthi forces fired into the air in an at­tempt at crowd control, apparent­ly hitting an electrical wire which resulted in an explosion. This caused panic that led to the crush, they added. —AP

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